The End.

Of this “racing season”.

And of this ultra distance madness that has been consuming my brain for the last three years and my life for the past six months.  It’s time for some self reflection, and since I’m too lazy to go to therapy, you guys get to reap the rewards of the aftermath.

First off, I want to definitely admit openly and aggressively that I really haven’t been myself since GAP Trestles Marathon.  What was intended to be my last long training run for Sinnemahone, proof that I could hit those long miles, my first marathon distance, etc… actually was a catalyst for the very real realization that I am not into running marathons.

Which in turn made me realize that if I wasn’t really into running marathons, I probably wasn’t going to be into running ultra marathons.  Obviously.

So, instead of just having a happy taper, enjoying some fall running, and just taking things as they come – I basically spent the last three weeks in a purgatory of dread.  Maybe I would not run this race at all.  Work stress had been piling up a little, the weather change hit me hard, I had a nagging cold for awhile… basically the wheels just started falling off.

Then… I ran Green Monster 25k last Sunday.

Myself and two first time "victims" Julie and Jenn

Myself and two first time “victims” Julie and Jenn

This is the third year I’ve run this race.  Hands down my favorite fall trail race.  It never fails to be the perfect medicine for busting me out of a funk.  I pulled off a 28 minute course PR from last year.  Confidence restored, I felt ready to take on that 50k the following week.

Until about Tuesday.  Once again, I suddenly started losing interest.  Another stressful work week.  I start panicking about “am I dedicating way too many of my resources to this hobby instead of being an adult?”.  It’s totally normal, I know, taper sadness and whatnot, but I went into this race on Saturday quitting before I even started.

Starting line - I'm the only ding dong doing the 50.  AKA my friends are a lot smarter than I am.

Starting line – I’m the only ding dong doing the 50. AKA my friends are a lot smarter than I am.

So yes.  50k day comes along.  I am running on 4 hours of sleep that happened before midnight.  I go into work.  I do my work. I get home at 4am.  Instead of trying to catch a nap I just pump as much coffee into me as possible.  Breakfast isn’t working.  I am not tired, but I don’t feel rested.

The cold air feels good, though.  My friends are chipper as hell and it gets me in the mood.  Maybe this is going to be a good day after all.  The goal was to go for 4.5 miles an hour for the duration of the 33.

The first few miles are on the road/fire roads.  Uphill.  It’s all good.  Until it’s not.  By the time the 25k and the 50k trails split, I have a nagging in my right hip that I’ve never felt before.  I am pacing with some dude and I want to keep him in my sight because I know there’s only 8 of us running the 50k, and it’s going to be a lonely day if I don’t at least have one human being nearby.

Hip nag doesn’t go away but we are on some single track and it’s a lot softer, so I can shut it down for a little bit.  I hit mile 10 under 2 hours, I’m feeling boosted, this is going better than expected.

Then mile 12 rolls around.  Which is basically 200 feet hill repeats through mile 16 up and down a gas line.  There’s mud and cold water at the bottom.  It starts snowing.  Dude in front of me keeps getting a little bit further ahead every hill and then I lose him.

Mile 16 I start getting jovial/delirious.  I start thinking about how running an ultra is like eating magic mushrooms and that you don’t realize until about 4 hours into it that maybe it isn’t the best idea.  I start catching branches with my shoes and go ass over teakettle a few times.  I’m not hurt, but at about mile 19 I knew I needed a miracle to pull me through the next 14 miles because my brain was done.

That miracle never came.  Instead I was delivered into a chunk of trail that wasn’t really trail but instead left me feeling like I was lumbering around without purpose.  So many rocks covered in wet leaves.  About a million too many creek crossings.

In fact, I fell into a creek at about mile 24 or 25.  I sat there for a good minute or two until I canned the histrionics.

I was soaking wet and freezing.  I had hyper extended my knee in the chaos.  I was gimping around alone, with no idea where the next aid station was going to be.  This was where I quit unofficially.

I had the luxury of over 2 miles of this.  Let me tell you, there was no given point in that half an hour (yikes and yuck) where I tried to talk myself into finishing the race.  The only thing I was trying to do was talk myself OUT of laying down and taking a nap in a pile of rocks.

When I came up on that aid station, there were tears in my eyes.

“How do I get out?” I say.

Everyone laughs.  They think I’m kidding.  I mean, obviously… who quits an ultra with 6 miles to go?

This girl does, apparently.  

So, I get a ride back to the finish line from a guy who thanked me about 100 times for giving him the opportunity to get out of the cold for a little bit.  I am heading to my car, when I hear…

“HEY!  YOUR FRIEND JUST CAME LOOKING FOR YOU!!”

Wouldn’t you know, my dear friend Jen who was my summer long training partner and Megatransect partner in crime planned on surprising me and running me in the last 6 miles.  Apparently she missed me by about 4 minutes.  I tried to explain to her that this is what happens when people do nice things for me, but I was too busy crying in my car.

So what do I have to say about my first official DNF?

Was I undertrained?  No.  I put in the time, and I feel really confident that my body was ready for this.

Was the course too hard?  No.  It was actually a really beautiful course.  It was tougher/more technical than I expected, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t run or trained on before.

Where did I go wrong?  It was all mental.  My head wasn’t in it.  My heart wasn’t in it.  I quit before I started.  When you toe the start line thinking “I can’t wait to get this over with,” you know it’s going to be a crap day.  Little things become big things.  You get clumsy and you get resentful.

I’m really happy to say that I’m hanging up my ultra shoes for a good long time now.  Considering I technically ran three in just as many months (Mega, GAP, and hey-o I hit 27.4 before I dropped yesterday), I don’t need to be reminded again that distances that long aren’t really my jam.

The good news is, this still hasn’t turned me off from running in general.  In fact, I’m looking forward to taking a nice solid block through the new year to work on my speed and my strength and getting my weight under control.  Next year, I want to focus on fast trail half marathons and 25ks, because I actually enjoy them.  I might have broken down yesterday, but it was a good thing…

I maybe felt defeated for a solid two hours, but today I woke up feeling rejuvenated, excited, and surprisingly not in any pain.

So yes, this is the end of that phase, but now it’s on to the next adventure.  Sometimes you have to quit the things that aren’t serving you.  Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you realize what those things are.  I am totally cool with this season as a whole, even going out on this note.  Until next time…

And then there’s THAT week.

You know that one.  When you’ve been cruising along swimmingly for a solid 12ish weeks on a training plan for a big race and you wake up on a Monday and know in your heart this week is going to be full of lots of this:

Why Bob, why?

My weekly wrap up is going to be pretty lame.  This week was the first time since June that for whatever reason I felt like I needed a mental from running.  (My body was hurting pretty badly too from Gap Trestles and the hill punishment on the Quehanna last Sunday, but just in an achy exhausted way, and not an achy breaky way).  Between picking up a couple extra shifts at the bar because one of my employees was on vacation, to the giant cold snap/torrential down pouring that occurred Monday-Saturday, this week was nothing but feeling constantly strapped for time.  More often than anything, when I’d finally sit down for the day, I was so exhausted that I basically just went into a coma.

Am I mad at myself?

Not even kind of.

Even with a poop week, looking back on my training for Sinnemahone 50k as a whole, I’ve adhered to about 90% of the workouts I had to do.  Not only that, I nailed my long slow runs every week except this one, which I definitely felt were the most important piece of this puzzle.  Coupled with admittedly racing WAY too much, it was bound to happen eventually.  With less than two weeks until the big day, I know at this point in my cycle I need to be in damage control mode.  I’m not going to magically improve my fitness in the upcoming days, but there’s tons of room to hurt myself, especially if I’m feeling tired and not paying attention.

The good news is, I have a normal work schedule coming up, and my energy levels are getting back to normal.  While my mileage will be curtailed because it’s taper time, I feel like I’m ready to get some quality runs in.

Here’s what last week looked like, for future reference of what a crappy week of ultra training means.

Monday 9/28: Rest.  Stupid long work day.

Tuesday 9/29: Oops, I did it again. Another stupid long work day, and my lack of preparation (and sleep) lead me to skip my run.

Wednesday 9/30: Finally got on the treadmill for 4 miles.  Followed it up with a Clutch Life Strength training workout.

Thursday 10/1: I graduated from being a 30 year old today, and now I’m 31.  Celebrated with sunrise over Devil’s Den (a 5 mile super hilly climb) with Jen, followed by Bloody Marys because that’s how we birthday.

Probably the most perfect food in the world.

Probably the most perfect food in the world.

Friday 9/2: Rest.  Apparently this was the theme this week.

Saturday 9/3: 5 uneventful treadmill miles after work.  Enough with the rain already!!

Sunday 9/4: 2.5 miles in the morning with the puppies.  My father and aunt came from Pittsburgh for lunch and to visit, and I needed to exhaust the dogs so they wouldn’t spend the day trying to body slam them.  Mission accomplished:

My sweet princess and her "baby"

My sweet princess and her “baby”

Coming up this week…

More taper time.  Only this time productive.

End capped with GREEN MONSTER 25k… aka my favorite race of the year.  AKA probably not the wisest choice a week before a 50k, but I can’t resist.  This was the race that started it all for me.  The love for trail running, the addiction to brutal backwoods beat downs – I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  Coupled with the fact that I have a huge group from my running club joining me this year, I am really really looking forward to this.

Now it’s off to bed for this broad, though.  Here’s to waking up tomorrow ready to get back on track.

Day Late Dollar Short… Weekly Wrap Up

I meant to sit down and write this post yesterday, but after work, my general disposition was along the lines of this:

so instead I ate pizza until I fell asleep on the couch.

I hope nobody was under the assumption that this is in fact a healthy living blog.

Anyway.

Last week was a pretty productive one in terms of runs.  I did feel a little more banged up than planned after the Dam Half last Sunday but in a good way.  You know you’ve got it bad when you want to go into your training run marathon with tired legs.  I swear this stuff sounds a lot better in my mind than it does on paper.

Monday 9/21: REST – It was my day off of work and I had the best intentions, but instead I got sucked into a closet cleaning spree and completely lost track of time.

Tuesday 9/22: 5 easy road miles (about 10:20 pace) with 4×100 meter strides (equal walking recovery) at the end.

Wednesday 9/23: 2 mile pre-marathon shake out.  I did 2:1 run walks.  I wanted to get warm enough to be able to get a nice long stretch session in and also see where I needed to focus my attention (namely everywhere.)

Thursday 9/24: GAP Trestles Marathon.  Plus bonus miles.  For a solid 27.8

Friday 9/25: REST – I had a nice 15 hour work day on deck, mostly on my feet.  I swear this saved me from just plain falling apart after the marathon.  I actually felt really awesome all day because I HAD to.

Saturday 9/26: I was supposed to run 3 miles, but I woke up exhausted and had another long work day plus a wedding to attend (and had to go back to work afterwards), blah blah blah… anyway, I did some Yin Yoga before work to try and loosen up my cranky calves and calm my ass down.  Obviously with puppies, it looked more like this:

Dogyoga

Because they have a captive audience and my face is delicious.  Although it’s better than when they drop their Kongs on my head when I’m in Savasana.

Sunday 9/27: 9 miles on the Quehanna Trail… aka the best run of the week.

I totally stole this from Julie's Facebook because she is better at this kind of stuff than I am.

I totally stole this from Julie’s Facebook because she is better at this kind of stuff than I am.

Julie had never been on this trail before, and I was really excited to take her out because it’s fantastic.  Showing my friends awesome new places to run is one of my favorite activities, and with the fall foliage, this was one of those money runs.  I haven’t done this particular segment since probably July, and I remember the first time I did it, I had to lay down when I got to the peak of the mountain (it’s a switchback, but there’s still a lot of climbing!).  Today I felt amazing!  It probably helped that it wasn’t 97 degrees and humid, but any time I can see a little quantifiable progress, I get pretty jazzed.

So that’s that for the week.  Got my last big nasty run in for Sinnemahone, got to share some awesome runs with great friends, and I can climb a hill without laying down.  But the best part is…

It’s TAPER TIME!!!

13 days til Green Monster.  19 days til my first 50k.  Every run from here on out is hinged on the goal of not getting injured and letting my legs start to feel fresh again.

Now, back to work I go.  Hope your weeks are filled with fantastic runs!

Nothing Like a Good Old Fashioned Thursday Marathon.

On our three hour mecca (which kicked off around 3:45am) Thursday morning to the GAP Trestles Marathon and Half, one pressing topic cropped up between my dear friend Jen and myself… “Is this really a productive use of our time?”

My racing schedule has been a little out of hand in the past few months, and although I had hit my 26.2 + bonus miles and was back to town before anybody missed me at work, having the luxury of running a full marathon on a Thursday morning seems like something reserved for the entitled, the retired, or the just plain crazy.

Apparently for some, this whole weekday marathon thing is a lifestyle.  Finishers of GAP Trestles included the 70 year old Larry Macon, who as of July had run over 1500 marathons in his lifetime.  Actually, after a little bit of digging into the results of said marathon, it appeared that I had found myself at a “Marathon Maniacs” gathering of sorts.  There are more people than you would imagine out there who have careers and lifestyles that afford them to travel and run multiple marathons across the states on a weekly basis.

After running my first marathon, I’m going to have to conclude that that would in fact not be a lifestyle for me.  (More power to ya if it’s your jam.  But after Thursday, the last thing on my mind was when the next time I’d hit the road for 26.2 miles would be.  Because the answer is most likely never.  Yes, road marathon = one and done for this chick.)

Scenes from the GAP Trestles course via Altis Endurance

Here’s the short and sweet of the day – my #1 top priority goal was to help push Jen to a half PR since both races started at the same time.  I can proudly say mission accomplished.

Jen's big PR!

Jen’s big PR!

I am pretty pumped because although we pushed it a little bit, there was never a point where I was seeing Jesus or sucking wind.  The crushed gravel trail made for some nice running, and the scenery was some of the coolest I’ve ever seen on a rail trail.  We crossed over trestles and there were wind turbines dotting the hills in the background.  We hit that 13.1 in just under 1:56.  The course was approximately .80 miles long however, putting her official time somewhere in the 2:02 range, and escalating my blood pressure levels knowing that after my 26.2, I’d have almost 2 more miles to go being as the course was an out and back.

For the duration of the 26.2 my goal was just to get in a solid training run… time on my feet, increased mental toughness, all that jazz.  Since my upcoming 50k is a mountain race, there really was no merit in trying to kick out a fast road marathon.  I stuck to a 5:1 run walk ratio, lingered as long as necessary at aid stations, and just basically did everything in my power to feel well enough to get on with my training plan in the upcoming days.

One of the trestles via Altis Endurance

When I reached the furthest aid station from the starting point, I talked with one of the gentlemen I assume is an RD and he apologized profusely for the length of the course.  I told him I really didn’t care, that this was just a really convenient long slow training run for me (not having to carry my CamelBak was the main draw), and yay bonus miles.

I will admit that I did get a little perturbed when I found that the course was altered after I passed that aid station, and that everyone after me “only” had to run 26.2 while I finished with 27.8.  Again, profuse apologies were offered, and this race was not even slightly competitive, so you shrug it off and you move on.

Gap Trestles

I stopped my Garmin at 26.2 and reset it — 4:22:46 was my time at that point and I’m not even a little bit mad about that.  Since my training plan called for 26 miles, I used the last few as an extra long cool down and just (rage) walked my way to the finish line. I basically just went into preservation mode.  I didn’t want to murder my body any further than I already had for the day.

Woeful HATE MILES

Woeful HATE MILES

I learned a few things today.

Mostly that I really thought “the wall” was a fictitious thing, or that possibly I was immune to it.  I figured since I had raced events that were 4+ hours in the past that my body would be used to what I was putting it through.  This is entirely false.  Even though I thought my prerace/intrarace nutrition was pretty much on point, I turned into a weirdo at about mile 21.  Nothing really felt good, even with my easy pace and run/walks, and mentally I was pooped.  I found myself sincerely looking forward to the walking portions, but when it came time for them, I just wanted to be finished period.  You definitely need to respect the distance when it comes to 26.2.

My friends who train for and run road marathons are bad asses.  There is a huge difference between “doing” a marathon and training for and completing a marathon you feel good about (no matter what the speed is that you set your intention on.)  I “did” a marathon and I have no desire whatsoever to go back and do it again better.  Marathons aren’t for me.  I’m completely cool with that, too.  I’m glad I tried something, even if it didn’t end up being my cup of tea.  I’m lucky that I suffered no ill effects in the following days aside from your usual post-long run soreness.  I’m also thrilled to have my last super long run out of the way before my 50k.

Ok, I kind of sort of get the finisher medal thing now.  Call it what you will, I am that girl who stashes my finishers medals in a shoebox and doesn’t really think too much about them.  My marathon friends are all about that bling it seems, and each one of their medals are tokens of their accomplishments.

Oh hey shiny thing!

Oh hey shiny thing!

When I crossed the finish line, I really wanted my medal.  Just like a really wanted some Taco Bell and a Sierra Nevada.

So there it is.  My first and last road marathon done and done.  When all was said and done I ran 27.8 miles (ok I ran 26.2, and walked the extra 1.6) in 4:52 and was the 4th overall finisher and first overall female (again, this is what happens when you run Thursday marathons with 22 participants, most of which planned on running 2 more marathons in the next two days.)  While it definitely wasn’t everything I hoped and dreamed, it was everything I needed out of that run… and I came out the other side better for it.  Although directly following the race, the “big picture” blurred a little bit and I almost considered dropping down to the 25k at Sinnemahone – I realized that now that this is out of the way… I’m there!  Smooth sailing for the next 3-ish weeks and then a nice long day in the woods.

Owning it. What the PA Trophy Series was for Me

By far the hardest earned t-shirt of my entire life:

trophyseries

When I signed up for the 2015 PA Trail Runner Trophy series, I knew I was in over my head, but I think that was part of the allure.  The previous year had been full of injury, family issues, and what I think was an existential crisis brought on by my Saturn Return.  It was a daunting undertaking, but it ended up being the cure for all that ailed me.  Spending some time alone in the woods in January in northern Pennsylvania is enough to not only prove your madness, but also a means to get it all out.

When the season kicked off with Mile Run Half marathon, I would say my fitness levels were fair.  They didn’t decline over the winter, but I definitely didn’t take advantage of the “off season” time to make great improvements like I could have.  Still, my goals were just to be able to “complete” said races well within cut off times.  Going in blind, I knew “compete” was off the table, but this was more of a me vs me battle from the start anyway.

Mile Run Half took me 3:11 to complete.  The final race, Dam Half took me 2:34. Something magical happened over the course of those five months, and I partly attribute it to hitting my head at Rothrock.  It woke up something inside of me that said “girl you are way out of your league,” but I was already committed.  The game changed dramatically after that race.  I still put myself in the “complete” class, but I wanted to finish the season off without any more bruises on my dome.  I didn’t want to be riding the struggle bus anymore.  I wanted to be able to actually ENJOY these races and experiences and not just hang on by a thread and spend the following week in a coma.

I definitely wouldn’t have been able to finish off the season as strongly as I did without enlisting amazing running friends to push me around the forest for the next few months or a really gracious work schedule that allowed me to stack my hours (and do my office work late night/super early morning) so that I could spend so much time working on my hobby.  Also, having a really supportive fiancé who never let me quit and was totally supportive of all the naps that I was constantly taking was a plus. Our shared love of doughnuts from Joey’s Bakery (they do have special fueling properties) doesn’t hurt either.  Though I pretty much treated the trophy series like Fight Club around my non-running friends and employees, nobody ever made me feel like what I was doing was insignificant and that was pretty nice.  The gratitude I’m feeling this week is insane.  I think that’s one of the biggest contributors to the happiness I’m feeling right now.

Ruminating on the season as a whole, it’s also easy for me to feel kind of selfish dedicating so many of my resources (time, money, energy) to something so whimsical as a series of races.  I don’t feel like any sacrifices were made though except for maybe a few toenails (worth it.  My downhill speed improved by about a million percent once I lost those things). If anything it made me more efficient with my time which in turn boosted my work quality and ensured that when I did do stuff with my friends and family it was fun and special (even if it did involve eating or lounging around). And let’s be honest, the money I spent on this wouldn’t have gone towards anything too important anyways.  I bought myself a remedial course in how to stick to a commitment, and that’s a worthy investment, especially after being in a funk for as long as I was.

I’m definitely coming back for a second helping next year now that I know what to look forward to and how to get myself ready. Still me vs me only faster and confident and with more tools in my toolbox – knowing HOW to train, having friends who want to join me (as I was guinea pig this year), and knowing what to expect helps a little too.

If this trophy series is something that crosses your mind, all I can say is DO IT.  It’s worth every penny.  Not only can you whip yourself into pretty nice shape getting ready, but the races themselves are all some of the best ones in the state.  Even if you don’t do them all, I can assure you even one will give you a great taste of what the beautiful Pennsylvania Wilds has to offer in terms of running and hiking (and a whole lot of rocks.)  For more information on this year’s trophy series and upcoming events, visit Integrity Sports’ website.

My next adventure/focus started the following day when I shifted all my energy to getting ready for my first 50k in October, but I can say this T-shirt definitely earned a spot in my regular rotation and not in the donate pile.  Shout out to my fellow trophy series finishers… you earned it!  Big thanks to the awesome race directors, incredible sponsors, and the BEST VOLUNTEERS ever for making these events worthwhile and more like fantastic EXPERIENCES than races.  And to everyone I met along the way, it’s been a great year!  See ya on the trails!

Weekly Run Wrap 9/14-9/21

because I feel like that’s a thing that people who blog about their running experience do.

And… it’s past midnight on a Monday, but today time escaped me.  For whatever reason I was moved to start ripping apart dresser drawers and putting away summer clothes/donating any of my questionable wardrobe choices, and between that and work, I lost track of time.  I wanted to start throwing up a weekly running/lifting/yoga/whatever log because in the past that has always been something I enjoy looking back on.  In my bout of organization that was today, I decided that now’s the time.

Though this week started off fairly meh because of the sickness running through our household, I have to say, things got better as the week progressed.  The goal this week was to have legs fresh enough to kick out a nice little race at the Dam Half, but not taper to the point of hurting my training for Sinnemahone 50k.

Monday 9/14: 7 easy road miles (~10:15 pace) with 4 sets of 100m strides at the end

I hooked up with a couple girls from my running club accidentally, but I cut them loose fairly quick because I was feeling like running slowly, and also not talking to human beings.

Tuesday 9/15: Nice am 5k on the road before work (~9:30 pace) which was supposed to be followed by 5 miles in the evening with my training partner Jen, but instead turned into 24 hours of flu-like 2015 for me (which incidentally was one hell of an ab workout.)

Wednesday 9/16: Continuation of Tuesday.  Unscheduled rest day.

Thursday 9/17: I felt a lot better, but definitely dehydrated.  It was a scheduled rest day, and I didn’t think making up miles was really a good idea with a race coming up.

Friday 9/18: The dogs were getting restless with both of their parents being completely useless for the prior few days, so I took them along for 5-ish slow trail miles.  There was a lot of hiking going on today.  Afterwards I got Yin Yoga drunk while Abby practiced her best puppy pose.

And THAT's why they call it that.

And THAT’s why they call it that.

Saturday 9/19: Slow-ish 5k shake out… I just wanted to get a nice long stretch in before racing Sunday, so I needed to get myself sweaty and limber.  Last mile was 2:1 run/walks.

Obviously followed by party time!

Obviously followed by party time!

Sunday 9/20: Dam Half Marathon.  Expectations 0.  Goals: sub 3 hours.  Actual – 2:34 and some change… aka a 31 minute trail half PR.  WTF IS MY LIFE.  Disclaimer: course was a hair short.  Also, it was a very fast course.  But more on this at a later date…

This week it’s tempting to just bask in the joy that is finishing the PA trail runner trophy series (yay!  and more on that soon, too), but I’ve got work to do with my first 50k coming up in less than a month.  This includes a road marathon Thursday morning (wait, what?) for a nice long training run, and Sunday-runday fun day with my friend Julie on the beautiful Quehanna trail in Benezette.

And now it’s way past my bedtime on a school night, so crap.  Well wishes for a wonderful week, folks!

So obviously that’s the way it has to be…

Happy weekend time!

I am being a total bum/bad boss today, as I dipped out of work early to try and stockpile a little extra rest before the Dam Half on Sunday.

This week as a whole has been really low energy one/kind of a wash.  On Monday, I worked early and Big A worked the opposite shift, and when he came home he was projectile vomiting from both ends of his body if you know what I’m saying.  He persisted to infect my couch with his cooties pass out on the couch for the duration of the evening while I tried to stay away.

If you know anything about long distance training and peak weeks, you will know that your immune system turns into that of a little tiny infant and I’m pretty sure Aaron gave me double sided volcano disease by simply looking at me.

So that’s been a fun adventure that started around Tuesday night.

He was back to good by Tuesday afternoon, and although the internal (and I guess external) chaos stopped for me on Wednesday, I’m just now feeling like a human, albeit a tired and dehydrated one.

My classy puppy Gemma is totally down with my laziness. She gets it from her mother.

My classy puppy Gemma is totally down with my laziness. She gets it from her mother.

I’m kind of bummed I’m not feeling 100% because I was looking forward to hopefully a big PR on Sunday.  Not because I plan on pushing it extra hard by any means, but because I know I worked my ass off the past few months and am in the best running shape that I ever have been for me personally.  I’m still a solid mid-packer (and sometimes a little bit further back) by all standards, and that’s so ok by me because if I’ve learned anything this year it’s that you have to embrace your immediate fitness level in order to know where to go from there.  Also, any miles you do the week before a race are basically not going to help you in any way but to appease your mental health.  Still, being as this wasn’t a “goal race” I am disappointed this turned what was supposed to be a 45 mile training week into one in the 20-something range.

I’m definitely not “sick enough” to sit it out (and I couldn’t… it’s the last race of the PA Trophy series, which is a bittersweet culmination of a big bucket list goal), but what was supposed to be a glorious intense tempo run to prepare for Sinnemahone 50k just may be a day of derping around in the forest.  With aid stations.  And free food afterwards.  And a road trip to check out new trails I’ve never seen before. AND IT’S ON A SUNDAY which is so convenient for my janky work schedule.

Ok, it still sounds like a good time, but my goal has shifted from somewhere in the 2:30 range to more like anything sub 3.  Supposedly the course is fairly friendly for a trail race, technical with only a few big climbs, (and no boulder fields!).  I guess we’ll just have to see how the day transpires once it does.

For now, I’m in damage control mode, snuggled up with puppies afoot, slamming Gatorade like a boss, and drifting in and out while digging into my September reading pile. I’m hoping I wake up tomorrow refreshed and ready to roll.  Always an adventure, I swear, and nothing ever goes as planned, but I guess being in a constant state of chaos is kind of my thing.  Hopefully this chaos is done being the kind that involves internally combusting, however.

In the thick of the peak weeks…

Excuse the extended absence here.  Last week was a peak week in mileage for me in training for my upcoming first 50k, and although I spent most of it feeling like this:

Starting around Sunday, my attitude took a turn for the this:

The highlight of last week was that I got to check another 20 mile training run off the list, meaning I only have one more of those to look forward to before Sinnemahone which will be at the Gap Trestles Marathon next Thursday.

20 miles is still a distance I approach with utmost respect, a little bit of terror, and a lot of naps and nachos in the subsequent days.

I can still count the number of times I’ve ran that distance or further on my right hand, so I think I am justified in my awe.  I don’t care if it’s on the road or in the woods, something about that 20 elicits a special kind of hurt and turns me into a stammering (and starving) idiot.

Obviously, directly following, I feel like this:

But two days later, and it’s pretty much a struggle peeling myself off the couch.

The next two weeks in my training are a pretty challenging block, but I know it will all be worth it when I toe the line at Sinnemahone with the confidence to finish and hopefully the capability to do it in a reasonable amount of time.

Until taper time, you might be stuck with blog posts full of irrelevant 90s gifs instead of trail porn (too lazy to upload), but I will promise to keep the discussion about my two missing toenails and butt crack ailments to a minimum.

Still, I wanted to stop by and say hi, let you know I’m still at it, and remind myself that I started doing this to document my adventure, and that if I don’t ever write, then what’s the point?

Happy trails until next time!

Manual Labor Day (weekend.)

Fact of life: owning a bar is not conducive to chill holiday weekends.

Sure, I could just stack the schedule like a jag, but I’m a big old softie and I wanted my employees to each have at least once day to get out and celebrate however they want (which I’m assuming is a lot more exciting than what I would be doing – run, laundry, hibernate?)  While yesterday and today are long days for me, tomorrow is an easy one, and then Monday we close completely for a little R&R (or in my case, yard work.  Fire wood needs chopped, flower beds need ripped up… nothing says Labor Day like manual labor, ya’ll.)

This life, it’s all about making the most with the time you have.  I am sure a lot of people work a lot worse schedules than I do.  I know a lot of people who are a lot busier.  Balancing your have tos with your want tos is a slippery slope to navigate, but I think I’m starting to figure it out.  Here’s some things I’m definitely looking forward to in the next couple days:

Runs:

I rested yesterday and today.  This was totally unplanned, but I allowed myself an anything goes week after Mega, and the direction things were going was that I needed a couple days off.  I was dragging so hard on my Thursday run that even though it was shooting lightening from the sky, I didn’t feel any sense of urgency to hurry my ass home.  Kinda felt meh yesterday morning too when I woke up.  I felt better today, but I decided the dogs needed a nice long hike and I needed some time to marinate in a vat of coffee.

Sunday starts a nice high mileage week with lots of fun stuff planned.

The Big Inch - perfect for some short fast fun with hills.

The Big Inch – perfect for some short fast fun with hills.

Tomorrow I’m going to kick off the week with 8 miles of hills that make your lungs come out your nose.  Monday, I get to hit the trails with my training partner Jen for the first time since Mega for hopefully a half marathon of climbing and bombing.

Reads:

Kindle Unlimited is pretty high up there on my list of things I don’t want to live without (don’t worry Big A, you are #1 on said list).  Here’s my current TBR pile for September.

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I’m pretty sure I’m the last runner on the planet who hasn’t read Eat & Run, but I figure it’s appropriate coming into one of my highest anticipated mileage months ever.  While Jurek is a rockstar and I’m just some dumpy broad who thinks it’s cute to eat a whole pizza after a long run, hopefully this will inspire me to find a more moderate approach to fueling.

On a side note, I just finished up Running for Health and Happiness by Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running.  I will do a comprehensive review in the next week or so here, but it was a really decent read.

Brews:

When the work weekend is done, and the yard work is under control, you better believe Big A and I are going to be doing a little celebrating on the deck.  On tap for Monday?

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I was putting off pumpkin beer as long as possible, but the Penn Brewery Pumpkin Roll is a hot commodity in my neck of the woods.  We could only get one case for the bar as of now, so I am hoarding some for myself because it’s probably my favorite of the pumpkin variety.

I haven’t tried New Belgium’s Ranger yet, but I’ve been pleased with the other samples I’ve received from them including the Snapshot and Fat Tire, IPAs are my jam, so I’m definitely looking forward to giving them a test drive.

Feeds:

No holiday weekend in my household is complete without a little feasting.

Photo and recipe from PopularPaleo.com Click the pic to take you there!

These sweet pepper poppers from PopularPaleo.com have turned into one of my go-tos ever since I tried the 21 Day Sugar Detox a few months ago.  The only alteration I make to the recipe is that I make a pouch out of foil and cook them over indirect heat on the grill.  I made the mistake of taking these to a Memorial Day party, and now they are highly requested everywhere else I’m invited.  Fortunately they are super easy.

I think they will be an excellent accompaniment to this Grilled Flank Steak with Chilean Salsa.

Photo and recipe from http://traegergrills.com Click the pic to check it out.

I also have a whole mess of various zucchinis and squashes to tend to.  And a farmer’s market haul of sweet corn and salad fixings, so we will be eating good!

Well, this was fun.  I’m going to start counting down the hours here soon before my “weekend” starts.  Hope everyone is picnicking, playing, and sucking every last drop of fun out of what’s left of summer.  Until next time…

Unsexy September.

August definitely went out with a bang, which resulted in September rolling in with a whimper, and that is perfectly acceptable (and welcomed) in my book.

I knew last month was going to be chaotic.  I felt like I was in a perpetual state of taper, race, recover, rinse, repeat.  While I don’t think I lost any fitness in the process, I know I most likely didn’t gain any either.  Also the “treat yourself” post race mentality hasn’t been kind to my body, especially when it seeped into the following week (more than once) with lower recovery mileage.  Totally a two steps forward, one step back situation.

Don’t get me wrong… it was totally worth it.  It was really fun seeing all the hard work I put in this summer come to fruition through the celebration of running fast and far.  It was nice getting out, seeing new places, and being social.  I just am really really looking forward to a completely unsexy September focusing on banging out high miles, getting in the weight room, consistent cross training and dialing the old diet back in.  I want to get my fitness levels higher by the time Sinnamahone 50k rolls around.  September is one of my favorite months for running because the weather isn’t as oppressively murderous, but it’s still warm and bright enough in the mornings to not have to dick around with layers and head lamps.

Also the best time of year to run with my friends the elk.

Also the best time of year to run with my friends the elk.

This week I’ve kind of given myself permission to run whatever I feel like, which has been surprisingly more than I planned.  I even did Island Run which starts off with a 3.5 mile uphill climb (we call it the death march).  I really thought recovering from Mega was going to be a lot more extreme, but aside from a case of the lazies, some freakish chafing, and a tiny blister on the ball of my foot, I feel pretty awesome.

I have two races on the agenda for this month.  The Dam Half is the last in the PA Trailrunner Trophy Series, and I definitely want to kick out a nice speedy finish to that (and redeem myself from all the snafus that have plagued me through this series).  My main goals are to show up on time and not get lost on the trail (it’s sad that basic adult things allude me.)  It’s also supposedly one of the most runnable courses of the series, so I am hoping for a trail half PR.

The other “race” I’m doing is 100% a training run for Sinnamahone.  I figured as a “birthday treat” I would spoil myself with a completely supported marathon instead of trying to peck out 26.2 alone in the woods.

It’s called the GAP Trestles Marathon, and it’s ON A THURSDAY WHICH IS THE BEST THING EVER for people like myself who work weekends.  I jumped for joy when I saw that.  Obviously, these are my peeps and it’s meant to be.

Plus, look at these views!

It’s not a crazy technical race by any means, but in case anyone from my running club is reading this, I know I said I would cut my legs off before I ran a road marathon, and this is not that.  It’s on a rail trail, guys. 😉  Barring any freak accidents, I will enter October with my legs in tact.

After that, one more big high mileage week, then onto October where I taper hard and then I tackle my first 50k.

My unsexy September is all about doing work and getting better — running for the process and not the eventual payoff.  Fortunately for me, this is probably my favorite thing about training for races – that point where you don’t have to think, that point where it’s all laid out before you and all you have to do is find the time to get those runs in… not worrying about how fast or am I going to be ready for XYZ, but just being so deep in the plan that all you have to do is the thing that you love doing.  Maybe it’s boring, dare I say it’s easy? (staying in autopilot, that is), but I’m totally embracing that zone.  Unsexy definitely works for me.  I have the floor length muumuu robe and nightly old lady face cream to prove it, just ask Big A.

Until next time… happy trails!